I found this image on Facebook from a friend of mine who had posted it. I am not sure where it came from, so if you are the owner of this image (or know who is), please let me know so I can make proper attribution and/or compensation for using it here. Thank you!
If you haven’t guessed, the assault on the Capitol building in Washington, DC has been on my mind. Not only is there a pandemic, but there is an assault on American democracy. The fallacy of the American Way and the American Dream has been laid bare. As an immigrant, a woman of color, who has been steeped in this fabulous fable, finding out that this fairy tale is actually a “fairy fail,” has filled me with sadness, anger, disbelief, indignation. It’s the same feeling I had when I found out that Santa wasn’t real – somehow, I knew deep down inside that a man coming down the chimney to give me gifts was too good to be true, but still really hoping that he was real.
Disillusioned disappointment is tough, no matter what the age.
Orange fingers reach out trying to warm the cold grey steel. Is it a “come hither welcome” or the desperate grasping of a last chance attempt to prevent slipping into oblivion? Still, the sun’s tendrils hover in that space between, a promise or a reminder of potential. They mimic the train tracks that reflect back this conundrum in a different voice. Tracks can lead away or lead towards depending on the sound of the train.
How can this indecision be solved in the quiet stillness of transition? It doesn’t – instead it needs to be savored like cognac or espresso caressing your tongue, warming your mouth, your throat, your belly. Only then can you appreciate this moment in time.
Sunrise or sunset
Best seen with eyes gently closed,
Heart thrown wide open
I knew I had to write something for Sadje’s What do you see #63 when I saw this picture. It reminded me of living in New York City and riding the subway to and from school. I lived in Brooklyn then, but went to high school in Manhattan. I did school plays and would stay after school for rehearsal then hanging out with friends. I loved watching the sunset. Years later, when I was home from college over the summer, I had a job doing interviews with alumni from my college. We had moved to Long Island by then, and I would wake up early and take the LIRR into the city for meetings. I loved watching the sunrise.
When I first looked at this picture, I thought it was a sunrise and then read the description which said it was sunset. It always amazes how people can look at the same picture and come up with totally different descriptions, explanations, meanings. That’s one of the things I love about picture prompts, and all prompts really: the responses to these prompts are so varied yet each one is beautiful, poetic and true – at least, for the poet and the people who resonate with their words.
I wonder if all people understand this concept or if it is only poets and writers? Photographers and painters (especially the abstract kind) – probably definitely. Sculptors? Architects? I would think so. Engineers and mathematicians – maybe not, since, in their disciplines, there is usually only 1 correct answer. Politicans – I guess it would depend, but currently there is a cohort where I can confidently say, “No, they do not understand or accept this concept”. Extremists who are willing to go to jail or die for their misbegotten ideology – definitely not.
I press the button right before our feet step off the driveway – Run Time! This has become our nightly ritual – our mother/daughter walks becoming mother/daughter runs over the span of this summer. I wanted our time together to give me a portal into your world – my own TARDIS into teenager-hood.
Instead, we went from walking to running then sprinting – at least for me. Your time went from a 20 minute mile to a 17 minute mile and then a 12 minute mile. This is my regular middle of the pack pace, a pace I love and can do forever even while talking. But you, my dear daughter, pushed the pace and me – faster and faster. Your current time is a 10 minute mile – too fast for your old mum to catch you and ask about the two hour talk you had with your friend who’s a boy.
Today, you almost broke into a 9 minute mile, but instead, you slowed down and waited for me to catch up, noting how much slower I am running. “Is this what happens when you get older?” you ask. Does she glimpse her future through the portal of my sweat stained face? We walk the rest of the mile, time unknown, the portal propped open.
Summer sun fading
Time passes through the portal
The sunflower weeps
In the spirit of Renard’s post, I am not going to apologizing for not posting at all in the past week. To be honest, I didn’t even realize it had been over a week since my last post. It was only when I realized that I had missed two prompts from Patrick and Sadje that I looked at my calendar – oh, how time files when you’re feeling stressed!
I runfess….my daughter is now running faster than me and has logged more miles than I have in the past month. I am proud of her yet frustrated at myself for not being as consistent as she has. On the days when we can’t run outside, she runs on the treadmill downstairs or runs around the house (literally, she is running up and down the stairs, doing laps around the kitchen island, running in circles around her siblings) while I’m making dinner or doing laundry or doing some other mom-ming duty. These are the things that I put aside when I run with her outside. While I do cherish the one on one time I can spend with her, this usually means dinner is later or I’m folding laundry until midnight. Still, I love seeing her persistence and pride in getting her mile in and getting faster.
I runfess….I’ve set a goal of hitting 100 miles in August. It’s sinking in that we are already a week in and I haven’t meet my weekly mileage for this past week. I know this is due to stressing out about whether to send my kids to school or not. I have been doing research on the computer, talking to local friends who are doctors or teachers about what they’re doing, reaching out to people for their take on the situation. It’s a lot of information and I have not yet made peace with our decision which is due tomorrow. This week though, I am getting back on track! I’ll report back at the end of August!
I runfess…I really miss races! Let me clarify, I really miss the EXPO before big races! I loved getting the free stuff and trying out new gels and drinks, getting great discounts for signing up for races. I loved meeting up with other MRTT/SRTT members and “carb loading” after getting our swag. I even loved getting the race shirt that never seemed to fit right. There was always that buzzing excitement of all these people coming together for one purpose. There is really nothing like it! I miss that.
There are so many things I miss about “pre-pandemic running.” There are so many things I miss about “pre-pandemic life”!! Still, this time has brought about some positive changes (as well as some negative). This coming month, I’m choosing to focus on these positives. Like the sunflower that re-orients itself to the east at night so it can catch the first rays of the sunrise, I am re-orienting my mindset after making this stressful school decision. Here’s to the sunrise!
I am drinking hot coffee despite the 90 degree weather, the sweet creamy liquid warming my nostrils before I take a sip. I hold it for a moment, savoring it’s decadence before swallowing, while watching my children run through the sprinkler. The sunlight glistens off the water droplets hanging onto their dark hair and tan skin. These diamonds sparkle and glisten before being flung into the air echoing the sound of their laughter. I drink my coffee and commit this happy, shining moment to memory.
Growing up, my sprinkler was the fire hydrant in front of my neighbor’s house. Instead of soft, squishy grass underfoot, we had pavement that left our feet raw from scrapes on the unyielding surface. Our laughter gurgled like the fire hydrant while our screams matched the siren wail of the police – a warning that our water play time would soon come to an end. My mother would drink black coffee and watch us from the stoop, her worries emanating from the lines between her eyes, like the sun’s rays burning our already darkened skin.
On this summer day, I drink my coffee, leaning against my marble countertop while looking at my children through the panoramic kitchen window and toast myself for not having wrinkles between my eyes.
Serendipitously, this haibun also works for Jamie’s Wednesday Writing Prompt to juxtapose our life as an adult against our life as a child. I do marvel at the difference between my childhood as an immigrant to this country versus that of my children. My parents both worked, my mom during the day and dad at night. We lived in a diverse neighborhood in the city where my brothers and I would walk to school around the corner. We took public transportation and made frequent trips into “The City”. I did my share of “babysitting” my brothers and could be classified as a “latch-key kid” growing up.
Eventually, we were able to move out of Brooklyn and out to Long Island where my younger brothers were able to live the “suburban life” – taking a school bus, playing football on Friday nights, getting their driver’s license at 16. By that time, I was already in college so my experience with “suburban life” only came when I was married and about to have kids.
My kids have never had to take public transportation as their sole means of getting around. They marvel at sidewalks and when we do go on the train or bus in the “big city”, it’s a grand adventure! They have always had a back yard and have no clue what a “stoop” is. My husband (who is also an immigrant) and I have taken them back to the places where we grew up and they marvel at the “tiny houses” and wonder how we lived with only one bathroom, without a yard, and having to share bedrooms.
Race/ethnicity, social class, education, profession – these are all inter-related. My “shining moment” would not have come to fruition without the hard work and sacrifice of my parents, without the guidance of teachers, without the encouragement of friends. Yet for some, even with these current supports, the institutionalized discrimination/racism inherent in our systems in the USA keep them from reaching their shining moment, from getting their just reward for their hard work and sacrifice, and that of their ancestors.
We all deserve a shining moment in our lives. I would even venture to say, we deserve more than one. I would even be bold enough to say, that we deserve to shine as bright as we would want in every moment in our lives. Shine on, friends, shine on!
Sunshine yellow paths slowly overcome with tomato red worries. If they were splattered, like ketchup on a a plate awaiting a french fry’s toe dip, the red would have seemed angry. But these right angles and straight lines speak to the weight of rules and how things should be.
Rule follower blue is in each quadrant, of course, keeping watch with that tick-tock military march head swing of disapproval – or maybe it’s disappointment, or maybe it’s both. But it’s really the white – the soul-less white, the brain numbing white – that has taken center stage. It defines and limits the yellow’s paths so happiness is constrained to this patch of canvas.
Each parallelogram rigidly defined as if they can’t hear the songs from Broadway calling them to relax, to sway, to be pulled and pushed and twirled, to be tossed in the air and slid through the legs. The primary passion of colors needs to be the breakout star.
I did a lot of research for this haibun so if finding out about the background work that went into writing a poem isn’t your “thing”, then feel free to skip this part and go straight to the “Like” button below! =) I love doing research and since we’re still sheltering in place, I have time.
I didn’t start off doing research but after the 2nd paragraph, I got a little stuck and that’s when I started doing some exploring particularly about the title of Mondrian’s art piece.
Boogie Woogie is a style of piano playing brought up from the southern part of the USA to the northern part by African Americans during the “Great Migration”. It’s inspired by jazz and gained popularity in the late 1930’s through WWII.
Currently, Broadway is closed due to the pandemic yet, I can still remember my first Broadway show, Cats, that I watched with my Dad for my 13th birthday. Since then, I’ve seen the Lion King, Hamilton, Chicago and Wicked there. The 2nd line of the haiku references a song from Hamilton called “My Shot”, which is mostly about taking advantage of opportunity.
I don’t know if Mondrian made all these connections when he painted this artwork and then named it. The BBC podcast that inspired Kim also had an interesting take on the relationship between Mondrian and Boogie Woogie (I didn’t listen to that podcast until AFTER I wrote my haibun so any similarity is purely coincidental. I swear on my favorite pen.)
For me, the artwork raised these questions: What are the rigid lines that seem to define our limits? Are they self-imposed? Or do we see them as being imposed by an “other”? How can we push, pull and twirl our edges to allow for flexibility and growth? To angle our abstract mind to find those higher meanings? To allow our vibrant, colorful, exuberantly moving joy to take center stage?
My haibun is, at it’s essence, about finding joy amidst the constraints of life – whether it’s the constraints of having to shelter in place and wear a mask, or the constraints of worries and “shoulda, woulda, coulda” rules in our lives. Can we turn our current limitations into something meaningful? This article says “Yes, if you have faith.” But what about the rest of us? What’s the angle of our life’s joy or are we content to live in the grid?
On this day, fourteen years ago, the God of War thrust his sword into my abdomen and stole the apples of my eyes. Like his namesake planet, I was left cold, and barren with crusted blood like iron red rust covering my once life filled belly.
On this day, fourteen years ago, I declared, “Let there be storms!” and created a maelstrom of wind and tears, anger and confusion, sadness and frustration. The storms ate the comforting, yellow sun, the brave, blue skies, the protective purple rains and the just-for-fun rainbows. The storms raged and the war commenced.
March 4 is the birthday of my twins, Lucas and Larissa, who were born at 22 weeks and didn’t survive. We have always celebrated their birthday with a cake. This haibun captures a bit of the anger and sadness that comes with losing children, as well, the bittersweet aftermath of living with the reality of this grief.
The smell comes first – crisp like biting into fresh lettuce and clean like a new baby. Then a breeze with a “just right” coolness that even Goldilocks would approve of. Next comes small green buds, slowly sprouting from the soil and branches, testing patience and bringing hope.
The scent is different inside where nature has less power. Chemical, metallic, like a fake robot baby or what some earth dweller thinks the sun might smell like. There is no patience only promises of change, the beginnings (but not the endings) of transformations that manifest in mops plunged in buckets of soapy water, clothes sorted into “too big”, “too small” and “just right for now” (again, Goldilocks would be so proud), and the whirring sound of a treadmill going nowhere fast. The buds of transition form, shaking off the covered winter self to sprout the wings of the self that could be considered “the cat’s meow”.
This has been a bit of a busy week but only because I’ve been trying to get miles for the Taji100. That means that the time I would usually spend at night writing, I’ve been walking on the treadmill. I’ve logged 35 miles out of 100 so far!
It has been unseasonably warm this winter and we’ve also been inundated with a lot of rain. Spring seems to be already here in terms of the weather. But my body is still in hibernation mode. I don’t yet feel the need to do any big cleaning or to get out and about. I’m still holding on to my sweaters and fuzzy socks.
I’m not ready to transform into my “spring self” – the one that is ready to take on the world. Nope – my “hold on to the hygge self” is still going strong and honestly, I don’t mind the winter induced resting period. Making time to recharge and slow down is important and something that a lot of people overlook.
Cats know the value of inactivity. They may not literally transform into “catterflies” but cat owners can argue how cats can be transformative to their owners. Here’s to transformations – whether they can be seen or not!
The new year begins in the darkness of winter. We try to light it up with fireworks and cheers, loud illusions of summer happiness in the frosty night air.
Yet there is no inferno that can thaw the the frozen fear of what this new year, this new decade will bring. The crackle of global warming stabbing glaciers into rising oceans while lighting never ending fires. The heated breaths of chanting voices wanting to be heard or wanting to hear heads rolling. The red faced demands of hot-under-the-collar public servants who expect a tip for doing their job.
The twelve chimes of midnight mask my reddened eyes streaming with red-hot tears and the choked sobs of my frozen throat that cannot – can not – defrost despite the promise of new beginnings. The illusion of a friendly inferno only works until you catch on fire. Still, I walk towards that new morning sun.
Winter’s cold ignites
The need for new illusions
Hope can’t wait for Spring
Beginnings are usually hopeful events however the news of the last few weeks have been anything but hopeful. This is an election year in the USA and I can already feel the tension and am bracing myself for disappointment. Why? Because people nowadays seem to thrive on fear, not hope. Maybe like in Star Wars Episode VIII, we are looking for the one person (or thing or event) to bring us hope. I think, though, that we have to look to ourselves for hope – to be the hope and even to share that with others.
In the chilly autumn evening, deep contented sighs battle with the hum of heated air wafting from the grate. The food has disappeared but the smell of fullness lingers: the tart scent of oranges in the cranberry sauce, the savory thyme lining the turkey’s moist cavity, the sweet butter hiding in the mashed potatoes.
Unsaid words also hide in the small gestures of family. “I love you” is plated with each dish on the table. “Take care of yourself” is served with second helpings. All desserts come with a side of “glad you decided to spend this holiday with us this year”. “Thank you’s” are coded in each utensil that is washed.
We had a traditional American Thanksgiving meal at my in-laws. I was looking forward to Thanksgiving with a Vietnamese twist however there was no turkey pho or banh mi with cranberry relish. The food was still delicious and watching the cousins play together made the occasion even more special.
I have a lot to be thankful for this year – for not only my family (immediate and extended) but also for the family of friends I have been blessed with here on WP, as well as, in real life, at school, church and my running group. The saying “many hands make light work” come to mind in terms of the many hands that touch my life and make light work of and support the improvements I need to do to become a better version of myself.
As this holiday season gets underway, I hope we all get a chance to pause and appreciate the people, things and activities that bring joy to our lives.